A Message about Fighting for Gay Rights

Norm Kent, Publisher

As our paper goes to press on a Tuesday evening, Republican voters are choosing between four candidates who have spent six months antagonizing the LGBT community of America.

In features our paper ran just a few weeks ago, we demonstrated that very few good things for gays are coming out of Republican camps this year. Supporting any of their potential nominees is anathema to equal rights. Each one seems to be a choice of who dislikes us less. But Rick Santorum is flat out frightening. What part of the 21st century is he uncomfortable with? The Republicans should be more than embarrassed, embracing a candidate who would be one hundred years ahead of his time if the year were 1778.

Whether you happen to be gay or straight, black or white, the reality is our country is still fighting a foreign war abroad and an economic war at home. Unemployment remains high, homes are still being foreclosed, and across all economic levels, credit mobility is being crushed. We have so much to fight for just to survive, it is remarkable that candidates from either party would stress themselves out about marriage equality. What is there about equality that they do not like?

Faced with so many issues at different levels, the LGBT community is fortunate to have had a President on our side for the past four years. Maybe he has not spoken the words gay marriage, but he has been here for us when it counts, from keeping his promise on DADT, to refusing to defend DOMA. President Obama has done more than make scores of LGBT appointments; he has embraced us as equals. We all want more, but in politics, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that ‘Perfect is the enemy of the Good.’

Accordingly, we read with dismay a letter criticizing Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom last week. What else does she have to do to support LGBT rights, leave her husband John and partner up with Robin Bodiford?

Commissioner Rodstrom has enlisted LGBT members in her inner circle, supported domestic partnership benefits within the city, and spoken out against discrimination in employment and bullying in schools.

For many politicians, these notions engage new terrain. Let us work towards gaining their vote, then their trust, and then form a lasting partnership. Let us show them that from the gay community they have friends to forge, not fear to hide from. It certainly has worked with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and county commissioners. We even elected a gay one, Ken Keechl, our mayor last year.

It would be great if public office holders embraced everything we do every day we do it, but ripping them a new body part every time they do not is inappropriate. Last year, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was chastised for failing to attend the opening of gay pride, when he was conflicted out with a St. Patrick’s Day Rally and his daughter’s out of town athletic meet.

Sometimes, we ask for too much, and are too foolish ourselves. If we are going to be a community, we have to advance a common good. We have to demonstrate that our rights, too, are inalienable, and that we, too, are citizens, empowered to act and live as freely as all other citizens. We abide by no restrictions or curtailments of our rights by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Thank goodness we have people within our own community holding everyone in office to task. They are to be congratulated, not criticized.

Our paper’s growth is in large part because straight venues recognize the vitality and equal, powerful, and economic strength of the gay community. We buy homes, go to the theater, eat out, use lawyers, own pets, and do pretty well for ourselves. Come see us next week at gay pride in Fort Lauderdale at Holiday Park or celebrate with us at the Winter Party this weekend in Miami Beach. You will find we is you, and you is us; that we all have more in common than we do apart.

For the century-challenged Rick Santorums who don’t want to partner with us, let them be mindful of the Irish saying: ‘May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping.’

For those politicians still timid about jumping into the debate on marriage equality, domestic partnership issues, or those matters important to the LGBT community, be not afraid. You will find friends here and celebrations at home. You will be on the right side of history, because eventually, all of America embraces those who embrace the rights of others. Those days come too slowly, for sure, but come they have and come they will.

Our duty is to embrace our friends and bring them within the circle, not antagonize them and boot them out.

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